Spurgeon on Pride in the Pulpit

By Chad Williams
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The danger of pride in the pulpit is an ever-present one.

For pastors who preach regularly, there is always the danger of believing our own press or basking in the cheap, fleeting glow that the praises of men can bring to our not-yet-glorified hearts.

Throughout the annals of Baptist history one would be hard-pressed to find a preacher that generated the kind of attention, both positive and negative, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was a lightning rod of public opinion in a bygone era. Before the age of social media and the advent of the blogosphere, when major newspapers would offer sermon reviews and critiques of the most influential preachers of the day, Spurgeon earned plenty of notice. Over the course of his lengthy tenure at London’s famed Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon became a national celebrity. He was once a boy wonder, having become a pastor only 4 years after his conversion at the ripe old age of 19.

If ever a preacher could understand the sinful pull of people pleasing in pulpit ministry, it was Spurgeon. Yet he refused to allow his critics to wound him or distract him from the divine mandate to preach the Gospel faithfully. Spurgeon’s ability to handle this enormous influence was made possible by his firm doctrinal convictions and sensitivity to the subtle pitfalls and temptations that accompanied his pulpit ministry.

In Tom Nettles’s new work on the life of Charles Spurgeon, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, he offers some very helpful insights into the way Spurgeon dealt with these dangers. Nettles writes:

Preaching on “A Lecture on Little Faith” in 1858, Spurgeon made an illustration of his experience on the necessity of laboring to “get as much as possible free from self”. For himself, he labored “to attain the position of perfect indifference of all men”. He found that, when he heard praise and gave way to finding pleasure in it, censure and abuse would follow. He felt this even more keenly “for the very fact that I took the praise rendered me liable to lay hold upon the censure”. He learned therefore to try, “especially of late”, to regard both man’s praise and censure as unworthy of notice, “but to fix my heart simply upon this – I know that I have a right motive in what I attempt to do, I am conscious that I endeavored to serve God with a single eye to his glory, and therefore it is not for me to take praise from man nor censure, but to stand independently upon the one rock of right doing”. (81).

The danger is real for each of us.

Let’s fix our hearts solely upon the One who is worthy of our affections, adoration and allegiance: Christ. May our ministries please our Lord.

Chad Williams is the Pastor of Preaching and Teaching at HighView Church in Villa Rica.

  • Chris Jordan

    Thanks Chad. Good words. Good reminder.